Lisa Markwell: Waiting game that's a new experience for children

FreeView from the editors at i

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The waiting is almost over. By the time you read this it might be over. The results received; the path decided upon. But at the time of writing, it's still about the waiting.

Yup, GCSE results day is *of importance* in the Markwell household. The past two months (to say nothing of the past five years) have been leading up to this point. My son's right to privacy precludes me from going into detail about how things might look after 10am this morning, but what has been fascinating is the process of waiting.

Children's idea of waiting is opening a door on the advent calendar, the delay until Christmas sweetened each day by a square of chocolate. Otherwise it's birthdays, broken down from the day after the last one into small increments ("I'm eight and two-thirds"). Generally what children have to wait for is good. It is only now, at 16, that they must face waiting for results in the same way that adults do, anxiously.

That's a hard lesson – that results aren't always the ones you want, or expect. That there isn't always the reward of the presents under the tree after 24 days of folding back cardboard doors. Indeed, without any tangible reward to get their hands on tomorrow (apart from a piece of paper) it was never going to be easy for the majority of children, who aren't naturally studious, to sustain a sensible combination of patience and expectation.

I had plenty of time to think about waiting while I made an unscheduled stop in the A&E department of St Mary's Hospital in London on Monday. What I thought would be a reassuring once-over that would take perhaps an hour and end with a letter for my GP turned into an epic 14 hours. Most of that time, once the initial pain that has sent me there had receded, was spent waiting for the results of tests.

With no battery life on my phone, no book and no one to talk to, the wait seemed interminable. After I'd rearranged my handbag (amazing how you can spin it out if you shuffle your credit cards really s-l-o-w-l-y), I drifted into that twilight zone where the outside world disappears. Like a teenager vacantly playing a computer game, I idly watched the comings and goings of patients in the Clinical Decision Unit. But I could never quite get the thought out of my mind that with the next swing of the ward door could come some unwelcome news for me.

And this morning comes the educational equivalent of a doctor holding a buff envelope with a scan in it. Welcome to our world, kids, where results are greeted with relief, not because of the outcome, but simply because the wait is over.